Dubliners by James Joyce
This is the first James Joyce book I’ve ever read. Sometimes, when you pick up a book that comes with such a legacy, a daunting feeling creeps over you – maybe you won’t see what the fuss is about, or the writing style just won’t make it an enjoyable read – however, Joyce was a delight.
I immediately fell for the concept of this book – 15 short stories that give snapshots into the daily lives of people living in Joyce’s hometown, Dublin. Likely inspired by people he spied going about his day-to-day life, each story has a different feel and a wide variety of characters. What I loved is that each one cleverly left you hanging in the moment of the story, you are left wondering what happens to these people, or what got them into a certain situation. There is no build up or back-story, you are just given an exquisite little glimpse into the characters’ lives at moments when they are on the cusp of a decision or their lives are taking a new turn.
Some stories I definitely enjoyed more than others. Standouts for me were: Eveline, a woman trapped in her mundane life, but then doesn’t make the decision you think she will, The Boarding House, where the strong willed Mrs. Mooney rules the roost over her daughter and guests of her house, Counterparts, an insight into a damaged man and his quite miserable life, that really left me reeling and The Dead (the longest story in this book), which tells the tale of Gabriel Conroy, who finds a new way of looking at life after his wife reveals a secret from her past.
I don’t really need to say that Joyce is an amazing writer, but in some stories, the writing was just so subtly brilliant, that even though not much happened plot-wise, I was completely drawn in and had to pause between each to digest what I’d read and get ready to move onto the next set of characters. The way that each word had a purpose and everything was considered made reading this collection of stories such an eloquent experience.